Travel fun without screens

The new book from Jervis = Genius.

The new book from Jervis = Genius.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again, probably): We’re not fans of screens in this family. Sure, the girls are allowed to watch programs here and there (as well as the occasional movie), but for the most part my wife and I try to promote tech-free fun.

This is why I was so jazzed when a friend lent me a copy of How to Entertain, Distract, and Unplug Your Kids by San Francisco Bay Area-based writer and maker (and single dad) Matthew Jervis.

The book came out this summer. In it, the author provides a treasure-trove of tech-free options for keeping kids occupied (the subtitle actually is “Tricks, Tools, and Spontaneous Screen-Free Activities”). I know the American Academy of Pediatrics recently stepped away from its previous declaration that parents should eliminate any screen time for kids under the age of two, but research indicates that kids who are encouraged to be creative on their own (read: WITHOUT SCREENS) tend to be more skilled and confident and perform better in life.

That’s where Jervis’ suggestions can come in handy, especially on family trips. Many of the suggestions work well during family travel. Some even work perfectly in the confined spaces of passenger cabins on airplanes or trains.

Take the one on page 60, for instance—“You Complete Me.” In this exercise, Jervis suggests folding a piece of paper in thirds length-wise and having different family members take turns drawing different phases of an object (be it a person or an animal).

This game is one of our favorites on the road, and it usually keep the girls busy for hours (Jervis notes it keeps most kids busy for 30-45 minutes).

Another of my favorite of Jervis’ suggestions: a game he calls “Pebble People” (page 44). In this activity, the author suggests finding 10-15 smooth stones and drawing faces on them, then encouraging kids to draw play environments on a piece of paper so their new friends can have some context in which to interact.

I could go on and on summarizing all of the games in the book but that would spoil the fun. Instead, check it out before your next family trip and leave your tablets and Kindles and iPod Touches at home.

What are your favorite screen-free activities for a family vacation?

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